Dreamland, USA

by Victor Davis Hanson

Tribune Media Services

Barack Obama just gave a belated but stern warning about escalating debt — a few weeks after he presented a 2011 budget with a $1.6 trillion annual deficit, the largest shortfall in American history. Congressional Republicans are now crowing about reducing Obama’s red ink by forcing some $38 billion in cuts. Such supposed slashing means America will borrow just $1,562 billion this year rather than the scheduled full $1,600 billion.

The administration expects that someone will have enough money to float our $4 billion- to $5 billion-a-day loans — either foreigners such as the Chinese, whom we are accustomed to lecturing about their illiberal habits, or our own wealthy, whom President Obama so often chides and threatens with higher taxes. Meanwhile, shrill critics of the modest cuts claim that the elderly, poor, sick and helpless will be cast adrift if their government dares to trim its massive borrowing by about 3 percent — or just about 1 percent of this year’s projected $3.7 trillion budget.

Obama borrowed more in the month of February alone ($223 billion) than did the spendthrift George W. Bush during the entire 2007 budgetary year ($163 billion). Obama recently asserted that not authorizing a vast new national debt ceiling would be partisan recklessness. He should know. In 2006, then-Sen. Barack Obama voted not to extend the debt ceiling when he railed against out-of-control government spending under the Bush administration. But then, the annual deficit was one-fifth of what it is today. Apparently President Obama lives in an alternate universe from the one Senator Obama used to inhabit.

Gas is heading toward $4 a gallon nationwide — and might reach $5 by Labor Day. The world price for a barrel of oil is well over $100 — and climbing. In response, Obama praised Brazil for developing a vast new offshore oil field and promised that the United States would readily buy the oil it produces.

The Obama administration has made it clear that such messy drilling is for others. So, much of Alaska, the American West and our coastal waters will remain off-limits. The logic is that Americans can borrow to buy oil from foreign nations that will drill in their fragile tundra, offshore seas and natural preserves. Apparently the White House has not much concern about where we are going to get the cash, or how others are going to recover oil offshore more cleanly than we would.

Instead of a detailed plan for tapping more gas, oil, coal, tar sands and oil shale, we still hear infantile chants about “wind, solar and millions of new green jobs.” But solar panels and windmills are not up to fueling the nation’s 250 million passenger cars and trucks any time soon.

The president announced that he would support the Libyan rebels. He pointed to United Nations and Arab League authorizations to establish a no-fly zone and stop the killing of Gadhafi’s opponents. Helping the rebels win means using force to remove Gadhafi. Yet regime change is a mission that we insist is not our goal and would not be authorized by the international bodies to which we subordinate ourselves.

In truth, the Obama administration intervened without knowing who or what the Libyan rebels were, apparently on the theory that they were close to winning and seemed a far better option than Gadhafi. The first premise proved wrong; the second could be true but is still subject to debate. So we took a breather and just quit military operations, hoping the Libyan mess would just go away in the same way that bad dictators voluntary left Egypt and Tunisia.

The government is no longer supposed to use hurtful vocabulary like “war on terror,” “Islamic terrorism” or “jihadist.” But some unnamed groups are still apparently trying to kill us. Otherwise, why would the White House keep the demonized Guantanamo Bay facility open? And for what purpose, and against whom, are we still employing the once-hated military tribunals, renditions and preventative detention?

Fantasy apparently seems preferable to reality. In our new dream world, borrowed money need not be paid back. Cars run on nasty gas that is produced in faraway places. Mean dictators should flee when told to leave. And radical Muslims are not really trying to kill us.

Like children, we turn on any spoilsport parent who nags us to stop borrowing, cut entitlements and government spending, start drilling and building power plants, get real about dictators in the Middle East, and keep vigilant against radical Islamic terrorists.

So we will keep dreaming until creditors, oil exporters, enemies or terrorists wake us up.

©2011 Tribune Media Services

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